Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Neighborhood Watch and Relationships Today

Over the past six month residents have been gathering to reclaim neighborhoods lost
in a sea of anonymity.

"It's all over that way," Cardinal Edmund Szoka, a retired Detroit archibshop said when I asked
him if he would consider sharing his wisdom and experience on how to reclaim neighborliness, and, the love of God and neighbor right where we live and are planted.

Lack of porches and attached garages seem to keep residents from coming up face to face the way neighbors were where I grew up on Arcola Street near Lynch Road and Van Dyke on Detroit's east side.

Often, when walking the dog someone will pass with eyes reflecting downward.

"Good morning," I shout, with a response from one out of a few contacts.

Officer Cherrie Mascarello who heads the Neighborhood Watch program of St. Claire Shores, MI., is one of a kind. Her assertive, deliberative and enduring presence to the community has
nurtured and created streets with communities of block captains and co-capatins who meet quarterly or more to converse about the 'hoods' and the effectiveness of Neighborhood Watch.

In fact, one neighbor noticed an unusual amount of traffic next door, Mascarello shared at a meeting of ICUN (Inclusive Communities Uniting Neighbors - Eye See You) and, called to police, suspecting drug dealing. That proved true.

Mascarello told the crowd in the St. Clair Shores Library recently that "you have to be our ears and eyes since the police can't be everywhere." How true.

Some want to enhance the quality of life in neighborliness in St. Clair Shores, Roseville, and,
Harrison Township, such as Fire Chief Mike Lopez, Jack Pelligrino, among others who
want to stir up Neighborhood Watch with the Macomb Sheriff's Department, and a Mt. Clemens, MI., sargeant who is the point person.

Harrison Township neighbors want Neighborhood Watch in their community soon. Home invasions have hit during the daytime hours recently.

Ways and opportunities to create conversation need to take shape in forms of block parties,
street garage sales, pool parties, and, more. Churches, community organizations, mosques, Neighborhood Watch, temples, families, and teens can take charge to set a gathering now.

People want and need to talk about what seems to me is the loss of neighborliness. St. Clair Shores and Roseville. MI., seem to be model examples of improving the quality of life in this town. Grass roots leaders emerged and are establishing living eyes and ears on numerous streets serving with signage with an eye that sees you, imagine that!

They know how to build relationships and reclaim the neighborhood. Anyone else
interested in a conversation in a Dearborn, Madison Heights, Royal Oak, Clinto Township, or, Detroit neighborhood street, for example?

How about you standing up to serve as a block captain while other simply sit?

Contact, or call me at
Sacred Heart Church in Roseville at 586 777 9116 please.

Stand up!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


How easy it is to collect books and other items that fill my garage.

Stockpiling, however, is not a good thing. But, I like to collect, you say? I do also, admittedly. Guilty.

So, yesterday I took to the task and loaded up over fifteen boxes of books and other
unused occupiers of my garage and delivered them to the St. Vincent DePaul Society in
Clinton Township, MI., not far from where I reside in Harrioson Twp.

Summer is a good time for cleaning clutter. At least, I think so. Doing it early before work when it is cooler outside, or in the garage helps me get the task done. Seriously!

For years, books were piled in bookcases filling space in my single-car garage of my 800 square foot condominium near the pastoral Metropolitan Beach, among Michigan's best lakes.

Now, I oversee the space that is cleared of books and other matter, admiring it.

I even feel lighter as I let go of items.

Others will read the books and enjoy other items tossed up the road to the St. Vincent DePaul Society that has helped others for decades now in Motown and metro Detroit.

That makes me happy.

Believers call it sharing our stockpile. It's good for the soul, spiritual giants and gurus have claimed down throug the ages.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Celebrations

Michigan summers and the sun is something to hold out.

Couple that with celebrations and one has a winning combination.

Graduation parties, Dad's Day, anniversaries, block parties, garage sales, and a quiet day
at Metropolitan Beach fill June before July's Independence Day colors.

There's the mix of joy and sadness, of course. Young people graduate but have a hard time landing a job.

This weekend two parties will fill my heart, including a high school graduation party in Romeo, MI., and a fiftieth anniversary party of a pastor in Ferndale, MI. Before that, however, is my
usual routine of presiding at Mass downtown in SS. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church.

Serving and stooping low was the biggest part of Father Edward Prus' ministry of fifty years.

And, although I wonder why one would give his life to the priesthood these days, my conclusion is always the same - selflessness and service are still strengths and virtues worth giving one's total being.

That may sound like a contradiction into today's culture, yet, isn't that the way life works when it comes to values and virtues?

While I will enjoy a Sunday full of summer celebration, it will be the mix of a young graduate who just returned from mission service, and, the pastor's loving outreach, that will enlarge my heart in thanks.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Reclaim Neighborhoods

What gives about people unwilling to meet and know their neighbors these days?

The front porch was a common element that prompted neighbors to talk. Something changed after World War II. Attached garages and fenced yards kept neighbors apart.

And, we're paying the price for anonymity.

Crime occurs without neighbors knowing one another and looking out for each other, and,
their homes.

Neighbors in St. Clair Shores recently reported that they suspected drug dealing next store and they called 9 1 1. They were correct. How would police know of a neighbor's drug dealings unless neighbors see the unusual flow of traffic?

Block parties, street sales, and Neighborhood Watch signage with ears and eyes to compliment the signs will help enhance neighborhoods again.

Yes, it will cost commitment and engagement. That's something we don't seem to want to
engage in these day, sad to say.

Imam Shamsid-Deen Abdur-Rasheed, spiritual leader of the Islamic Cultural Institute at 30115 Greater Mack, south of Twelve Mile Road in St. Clair Shores, MI., is hosting a meeting Saturday, June 25 at 11 am for Neighborhood Watch building. Contact the Imam at, or Henry Castro at for more information.

Reclaim neighborhoods now.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dear Dad

Dear Dad:

Thoughts of you are triggered every year on Father's Day, for sure.

There's much that comes to mind:

You walked so fast - and, I learned to do that also! - that Pat and I were the last of our string
of nine of us filing along Van Dyke from Lynch Road in Detroit as we headed to Saint Thomas Church further south in Motown.

We had our own procession in this ritual we observed daily, if not weekly. The two-mile trek provided time for us to converse even if we were tired and ready to sit when we arrived at church or school.

We were lucky to get twenty-five cents for bus fare to get to school each day, but, that was rare, and exercise was the aim, I'm sure.

I recall you catching some sleep after your day job at the Budd Company while your midnight shift approached quickly each day.

You were there each day for us. You providd shelter, food, clothing and attention with dear mom whoalso worked part time away from home to make ends meet.

Like all of us, you had your issues, and seven children was big enough a chore for you and mom.

Yet, you made sure values and virtues were taught.

You led by example.

Prayer was essential with participation at church.

You supported us and the paths we selected for life's work.

Evenings together before television come to mind. As you rested from work, getting ready for the next job, mom sewed socks as we finished chores of homework.

I remember you driving us to the City Airport on French Road where we parked as watched planes land.

Friday mornings were a treat for us when you bought fresh doughnuts for us before we headed to school. The aroma was enough to gobble up the fuel to get through the day at school.

I remember going to get you from the local bar where you stopped often for a drink or more.

Your own mom died early in your life when you were six months old. Your dad remarried, and,
I recall the abusiveness you experienced then. Yet, when your mom died I was asked to preside at the funeral.

"Everyone has their story," I said, as we gve her back to God.

She did. You did. We all do.

Story is all we have.

Stories are all we remember also.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

(Dys)functional Family

Call them a dysfunctional family.

It seems to be going around these days, doesn't it?

They came from across the country and met at Cobo Center in Detroit, while another group of the same family and organization met in Livonia, Michigan.

Each wanted something different from their parents, their leaders.

In fact, one group blasted bishops, while the other supported their every decree.

And. . . they met in separate rooms, so to speak, across town, as in a house with teens in their own separate rooms, and, well their parents, their leaders, they didn't know what to do.

They let them be.

Entrenched in their own truths, they talked to each other in separate enclaves, and, the media let the rest of the world know of their deliberations.

One leader, parent supported one group while declaring the other far from the rules of the family.

So . . .

They remained intrenched, unwilling to speak.

One group demanded obedience at any price to truths taught, while the other wanted change
and reform.

For a few days this past weekend each group met and listened to speakers on who is a Catholic, for example, or, on marriage, and, concluded.

They went back to their rooms like teen-agers, called to the family dinner they hate.

They remain who they were when they started their proceedings.

They prefer dysfunction over dialogue.

So sad.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Organisms Grow, Or, Die

Everyone knows that organisms grow, or die.

They change, and move, and morph readily each day.

Humans, among those organisms, change and change often.

Life requires that. Life is like that, you know. Questions are explored, and, often remain unanswered and inconclusive.

People remind us of change always. Galileo did when he claimed the earth revolved around the sun. While others condemned him, as you know, he knew the earth moved, like each of us do daily.

My own parents changed often. Michigan is like that, you know. With seven kids, two sets of twins among them, how could they not change often, adjust, work tirelessly, and more.

A pastor I knew as I was growing up said that marks of the church included one, holy Catholic, apostolic, and changing.

Changing . . .that one is not among the usual marks.

Thirty-five years I have witness people change, and, change they have.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rohr: A Lever and a Place to Stand: The Contemplative Stance, The Active Prayer

This latest tome by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr offers an evaluation of religious attitudes that spawn an alternative pious world for advocates without confronting materialism and oppression of today's culture.

Religion without a contemplative stance, according to this well-respected spiritual mater, is often the cause of the problem, he says.

One to challenge religion, Rohr tells how religion will recover its aim as morphing and transformational only if it refuses to embace wealth, power, certitude and funamentalism.

The contemplative stance crosses boundaries and is not concerned with who is "in" and who is

At the outset of this book, Rohr quotes a Greek philospher and mathematician who says:

"Give me a level and a place to stand and I will move the world."

Rohr says that the "fixed point is our place to stand. It is a contemplative stance: steady, centered, poised, and rooted."

Rohr claims "that we don't have a fixed place to stand, a fulcrum of critical distance, and thus many of us cannot find our levers, or true delivery systems, by which to move our world.

It's a good read.

It helps awakens a world in need of this truth.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Josaitis Is Practical, Passionate, Persistent

Eleanor Josaitis is one of a kind.

In a recent visit to her room in the Apostolic Christian Retirement Center on Middlebelt, north of Five Mile Road in Livonia, MI., she lit up when I asked her if I could read a meditation.

"Sure, please!" she said with exuberance.

In and out of hospitals for the last year, or so, Eleanor, a beloved community activist, shines wide and big for all the good she does for Detroit's residents, and, beyond.

Josaitis founded Focus:HOPE, a nationally-renowned civil and human rights organization with the late Father William Cunningham who died in 1997.

After the 1967 civil unrest and riots in Detroit, they both decided to make a difference.

And, they have.

For sure.

They delivered progams that "use intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice," their mission states.

They brought together suburban and city high school students on a retreat to help them experience and bridge the cultural divide.

Both are heroes that I've been privileged to witness and grow up with as I watched them stand up when other chose to sit and say or do little or nothing in the face of prejudice.

Both refused to become cynical in the face of so much sadness and horror all around the violence
of our beloved Motown.

Watching Eleanor struggle with the pain of cancer and bed sores reminds me of the salve they
provided, and, the jobs they helped create in retraining so many people for work.

Food for mothers, children and seniors citizens in 1971 helped others become aware of the plight of so many humans.

Eleanor believes that eduction and training is key to ending racism and poverty. Injustice
only inflicts violence. When treated unfairly, people get frustrated and fight. Elenaor knows that well. She helps with positive solutions. And, has done that for decades now. Some resisted her vision. Yet, she persists, and finds solace at Detroit's Belle Isle, where Father Cunningham also fled when their humanity was tested. Still, their faith and interior life, kept them both moving.

Focus:HOPE continues today as a beacon of hope.

And, although Eleanor Josaitis seems to want to get up and go, she is practical enough to know her limitations. With smiles, and gentle gestures, she wondered the other day if she's been asking too much of God lately.

"You, I said!"

"Eleanor, you've been one of God's best helpers. God would never tire of you," I shot back.

She inspires from her bed, however. Always an inspiration. I love her so much, and, her example inspires so many.

And, I am so proud to know her, and her family, and the faith that fuels so much common good.

She is practical, passionate and persistent.

We all can learn lots from her faith and interior life lived daily in and out of that bed that confines her, yet, inspires many, and, me, praise God.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Made in Michigan!

And, Oakland County players plan to circle the theater's front door drive and walk down the main aisle's red carpet entrance.

That's the anticipated film premiere of Leonie, Monday, August 1 at 7 pm in the Emagine Theater in Novi, MI., with a red carpet reception for players.

More shows will open the same night with tickets purchased at

"I think I told most of you about this movie that I am in as a prioress. It has been a long time in getting ready for release and the date is finally here. Although I am only an extra and do not have a speaking part, it is exciting to be a part of it," shouted Elaine Fontana of Sterling Heights, who plans to be part of the Barbara Middleton Holy Trinity Productions I redcarpet reception at 6 pm.

Among the all-Michigan cast of eighty-seven players are Genevieve Lang, Megan Wolf and Samantha Lang of Rochester Hills, Jeff Barron of Farmington Hills, and, Mary Rose Maher of Dryden, and, Paige Pilarski of Romeo.

"Leonie!" is directed by Joseph Robert Maher, and, is based on his screenplay about the life of Leonie Martin of Alencon, France, the sister of the patron saint of France, St. Therese Martin, known to Catholics the world over as the "Little Flower."

"In the movie, people will see for the first time, life behind the walls of a monastery in the United States that has preserved the original observance and habits since the founding of their order by St. Francis de Sales, and, St. Jane de Chantel in the 1600s," Middleton said. "It's my understanding that no other U.S. production company has ever been allowed behind the walls of a cloistered religious community."

Leonard Blair, bishop of the diocese of Toldedo, OH., granted approval for filming Leonie in the Monastery of the Visitation, a Papal Enclosure that excludes guests.

"The monastery is magnificient and the austere lifestyle these sisters live with in such joy is truly amazing that I couldn't wait to share this palce with the rest of the world," said writer and director Maher, "who couldn't wait to begin shooting in the Toledo monastery.

"A totally heartwarming story," said Dolores Hart, who left Hollywood fame and fortune to enter the Abbey of Regina Laudis, and, is a film star and Oscar voiting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The feature film depicts a chronic, and, emotionally-disordered bourgeoisie woman with learning disabilities, in the late 1800s in France, who wreaks havoc with the religous superiors in the monasteries she tries in vain to enter, and, subsides after encountering a compassionate nun, named Sister Jeanne Marguerite, who is played by Paige Pilarski of Romeo. The befriending helps Leonie endure her trials and tribulations, part of a Christian's rite of passage.

For more information contact executive producer, Barbara Middleton at 586 243 6199, or

Oakland area production designer is Caitlin Callaghan of Troy, editor Brien Dux of Berkley, sound editor Doug Schiete of Clarkston, and producer David Brockman of Rochester Hills. The music is composed by the Rev. Eduard Perrone of Assumption Grotto Church in Detroit.
Emagine Theater is located at 44425 West 12 Mile Road in Novi.